These days, you don’t have to trek to Madison Avenue to be a Mad Man. As it has done with so many genres, the Internet has democratized commercials. Now indie moviemakers can earn cash creating video ads. But there’s more to it than money. According to Justin Johnson, founder of Online Video Contests (OVC), entering contests is a powerful—and fun way to develop moviemaking skills.
MMM: What gave you the idea for starting OVC?
Justin: I was playing around with a site called “Instant Domain Search” back into 2006, and I typed in “Online video contests.” The .com domain was available, and I thought to myself, “Well, that sounds like a thing!” So I bought the URL and within weeks started the site. Amazing how now, eight years later, my wife is running it full time! I love that it provides an option for creative people to pay their rent, without having to sell out and get a job they don’t like. You can actually pay your rent making videos…if you’re lucky and good!
MMM: Is there really much money out there to be won?
Justin: As I type this, our site lists 151 contests in play, with a total of nearly $700,000 up for grabs. That’s the entire potential prize pool for all our cash contests. Since we started in 2006, we’ve listed nearly 7,000 contests.
MMM: Who are the sponsors?
Justin: There are lots of companies, with more commercial-seeking brands such as Poptent, Tongal, Mofilm, and education-focused folks such as Project ED, in addition to music videos (Genero.tv) and short films and PSAs. We typically post between 30 and 40 new contests every week. That makes us the top aggregator for video contests.
MMM: Besides winning cash, what benefits do you see for moviemakers who decide to enter video contests?
Justin: It’s a great learning experience to create content for brands. If you can figure that out, you’re really a step ahead of the crowd. I also think that working within a time limit is a very important thing for young filmmakers to learn. And being able to edit your work down is crucial. Most amateur videos are just too long and boring.
MMM: Can you tell us about a memorable winning entry?
Justin: A friend of mine did a great Doritos ad that made it to the Super Bowl last year. It featured a girl in a little princess dress and a dude with an awesome beard. We watched it screen at his house during the big game, and it was such a fun moment to have everyone erupt in cheering.
MMM: Based on your experience, is there any advice you can give readers for doing well in an online video contest?
Justin: First, understand the brand you’re creating content for. Look at their other commercials. When you get their voice, you’ll be able to put your own spin on it and end up with something that they will like. Remember, you’re not making a video for your friends and yourself, you’re trying to get people in suits to get a kick out of it.
MMM: Anything else?
Justin: Don’t worry about the huge contests when you start out. Begin by picking some specialty ones with a prize under $1,000, and try to win a couple of those before stepping into the big leagues. You’ll find them all over at OVC!